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Amber

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I wake to a blinding sunlight that shines through the window and fills my bedroom with a golden glow. As I rise to stretch and yawn, I realise I feel better than I have in a month. There is no struggle as I sit up in bed, and no cough escapes my mouth. My name is Amber Kenslowe, and I am twelve years old. For the past few weeks, I have had pneumonia. It's been pretty bad, in fact, the doctor that's been visiting almost every day said last night that it's one of the worst cases he's ever seen. Though I guess that's probably not the best of news, I'm a bit proud of myself for becoming so sick that even the doctor is a bit startled. Before I fell asleep last night, I saw him speaking quietly with Mother and Father outside of my room. However, nobody had come in to tell me if there was a problem, so I assumed there wasn't one.

For the past few weeks, I have felt horrible. I was vomiting, coughing, shivering even under four blankets, and sweating though Mother consistently changed out the washcloths on my forehead to keep me cool. Even simple breathing was becoming a difficulty. But today, I feel different. I no longer feel sick at all. In fact, I feel quite good. Healthy. Yet, even as I'm climbing out of bed, I can feel something is wrong. I can't quite explain it, but something in my body feels very strange.

I ignore the odd feeling and decide to find my parents immediately. It would be so wonderful to surprise them with my sudden great health. Mother and Father will be so happy, I think. They try to disguise it when they're with me, but I'm not stupid. I can tell that they worry about me. But they won't have to worry anymore! Enjoying my sudden regained strength, I prance down the hallway and into my parents' bedroom. The door is open, so I slip in quietly without knocking.

They're both still asleep. As I approach their bed, I can see the worry lines on my father's forehead, and the dark circles under Mother's eyes. It must be because of me. I feel guilty for a moment before a smile finds my face again. I'm better now. Somehow, I've been given the miracle of an overnight recovery.

"Mother?" I say quietly, hoping I won't have to shout to wake her. "Mother, wake up! I'm not sick anymore, see? Mother!"

But she doesn't stir.

I reach out a hand to touch her - maybe to shake her lightly. She really must see this. Surely, it will make her quite happy-

I gasp.

My hand has passed right through her body!

I stare at her in horror for a moment. No, I imagined it - I must have! I reach out to touch her again, and let out a small scream as my hand once again passes through her shoulder. I must be dreaming. This isn't possible! I frantically wave my arms around at various objects in my parents' room, only to see them pass straight through. I try to grab the bedside phone, but I can't get a grip. I make to kick the nightstand in frustration, but my foot passes through that, as well. What's happened to me?

Then, I realise why I have been feeling weird. When I woke up, I felt nothing. Not the sheets on my bed, the wood on my floor. I didn't feel the warmth of the sunlight that had danced off the walls in my room. I must not have noticed because I had been so excited about no longer being ill, but I'm sure now-

I can't feel anything anymore!

"Oh no," I mutter desperately. "Oh no, no, no...Mother! Mother, please wake up! Something is very very wrong here!"

I reach out again to shake her, but I can't. Can't touch her, shake her, nothing!

"This is a dream," I tell myself. "A terrible horrible dream."

My breathing begins to return to a normal rate. Yes. This is a dream...it's all just a horrible dream.

To wake myself, I pinch the skin on my arm, like Rebecca Dossel said I should if I even find myself in a dream I don't like. It's worked before, like this one time, I had a dream that I was being chased by wolves, and I had tripped and fallen, and the wolves caught up to me and surrounded me, all snapping their jaws like they wanted to eat me. Then, I had just pinched myself and woken up. It's really a smart trick.

But this time, nothing happens. I can barely feel my own touch, though my hands don't pass through one another like they do with everything else.

I am about to cry out again, when I hear a small yawn from Mother, and glance up hopefully. Her eyelids flutter open, and she gazes straight at me.

"Mother, please help me!" I say loudly. "Please, something's wrong!"

But she doesn't respond. I stare at her in frustration. Can't she hear me? See me? No, I suddenly realise. She can't. She seems to be looking straight at me, but her drowsy eyes are unfocused, as if she's looking at nothing in particular. Certainly not at her daughter, who is clearly standing right in front of her.

No...I'm not dreaming, I think. I sink to the floor and hold my head in my hands. I'm not dreaming, and she really can't see me or hear me. She can't feel me. Nobody can.

"Mother!" I begin to sob with desperation and fear. "Mother, please!"

Behind her, my father slowly sits up and looks over at her. He doesn't seem to notice me either, as he rubs her shoulders soothingly.

"You alright, love?" he murmurs to her.

She blinks and lifts her head to him. "No, not really. But can you blame me?"

Her voice is very soft and sad. I stop crying to listen.

"She'll get better soon." For some reason, though, Father doesn't sound hopeful.

"I am better," I say, wishing they could hear me. "At least, the pneumonia's gone - I'm not coughing anymore! I just sort of have this...other problem. I sort of need some help...but you can't...you don't seem to realise I'm here..."

My voice trails off. There's no point, I think, watching them slide out of bed. Father goes into the bathroom, emerging a moment later with his red bathrobe. Mother sighs, and steps into her fluffy slippers. Then she straightens up and leaves the room. Still hoping to find some way to catch her attention, I follow.

I quickly realise that she's headed to my bedroom. Oh good! Maybe when she sees I'm not there, she'll be able to see I'm right here. I now skip happily at the thought. And then she and father will see I'm no longer ill, and they will be so happy that they'll decide to take me out for ice cream!

I haven't had ice cream since I got sick, but now I can almost taste the frosty sweetness as I try to decide which flavor I'll choose. Vanilla's always delicious, but I do also really like the sharp taste of mint-

A sudden scream interrupts my thoughts. We've reached the bedroom now, and for some reason mother has dropped to her knees, sobbing. That's a bit of an overreaction, I think. I had expected her to be maybe a bit distressed when she saw I wasn't there, but...

Oh. Well...that's odd.

There's a girl lying in my bed. She has long blond hair, and her eyes are closed, as if she's asleep. She looks really familiar, but I'm having trouble figuring out who she is because mother has just grabbed her and is now clutching the poor girl to her chest. You'd think someone would wake up if they were being squeezed by a loud, sobbing woman, but this girl's eyes remain closed.

"Amber...no, Amber..." my mother whimpers, holding the girl even tighter.

I'm so confused. "I am right here, Mother. Why are you crying? Who's she-?"

Oh no.

The girl in my mother's arms still isn't waking. I now notice how cold her skin looks, and how pale it is. Her shoulders and chest are still, lacking in the faint rise and fall that come with breath. I understand. She is dead.

"Amber!" Mother wails again, tears streaming down her face.

No! No! Oh, no!

I recognise the girl now. Her face is the face I saw every day in the mirror. Her eyes are mine, her hair is mine, her body is mine. Suddenly everything fits together. The girl is me.

But..that makes no sense. I don't feel dead. I feel very much alive...except, really, I realise, I don't. I can't touch anything, nobody can hear or see me...it's as if I don't exist anymore.

Because I don't.

I've heard about ghosts from Rebecca Dossel. She used to tell me that her grandfather turned into a ghost when he died, and he's now haunting her house. "Nobody can really see him or talk to him," she'd say, "but Mother says she can sense him. She says she just knows he's there." Of course I never believed her. I'd told her that she was making it all up, and how old did she think I was? Five? And anywho, I was much too old to believe in childish stories like that. Of course, now I wish I'd believed her, because the only explanation I can come up with is...I am a ghost.

Father has run into the room, and is now holding mother and my body is his arms. Together, they cry over me. I want to comfort them. To let them know I'm alright. I feel so much better now, I'm no longer sick, or coughing. I don't even have a fever anymore. Apart from the fact that I am no longer alive, I feel fine. Much better than I had when I was alive and sick. I only wish I could tell them. I don't like them being upset because of me.

I reach out to rest my hand on my mother's shoulder. For a split-second, it feels solid, as if I can touch her again, but then it slips through her arm, and I quickly draw back. She raises her head, and for a moment I am hopeful. Perhaps...

No. I dismiss the thought as my mother gives a slight shake of the head, and continues to cry. My father holds her, shaking with tears of his own. It's horrible, to have to watch them be so upset because of me. I hate that I have done this to them. Unable to handle seeing any more tears, I leave the room and sit out in my hallway.

My name is Amber Kenslowe. I am twelve years old, and I am dead.





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